The recent revelation by the wife of the president, Mrs Aisha Buhari, on the deplorable condition of the Aso Rock Clinic, Abuja is quite disturbing. As the matriarch of the nation’s first family and its chief caregiver, Mrs Buhari owes her family the sacred duty of ensuring that their well-being and healthcare needs are met at the state house health facility in the Aso Villa.
Mrs Buhari’s exposé affirms the widely held notion that all is not well with the nation’s health sector. If the state house clinic, which is supposed to be primus inter pares among other health facilities in the country, is not better than a glorified consulting station, one can only imagine the dire straits other hospitals are in. When this is weighed alongside the recent strikes by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), as well as the imbroglio between the Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewoye, and Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Usman Yusuf, our health sector might soon enter a state of shock.
The allegation of fraud and other disreputable issues emanating from the Ministry of Health, following the suspension of Professor Yusuf by Professor Adewole deserve some scrutiny. The NHIS boss, who was suspended over allegations of fraud and abuse of office, was quick to counter the action, describing it as a witch-hunt. He alleged that he was suspended because he refused to grant several monetary requests from the Federal Ministry of Health.
It is instructive to note that such allegations of corruption, official recklessness and unethical conduct among parastatals, agencies and committees in the health ministry are not new.
The Buhari administration must begin to walk its talk in its fight against corruption by cleansing the Federal Ministry of Health. The president’s antecedents in fighting corruption raised expectations from Nigerians on his ability to deal with the social malaise, upon resumption of office, and revive the economy from the ashes of accumulated monumental corruption. Of course, there have been promising signs in this regard but the expectations are yet to be fully met. Therefore, the present situation in the Ministry of Health and government-owned health institutions is a litmus test for the anti-corruption crusade.
The House of Representatives Committee on Health Services should extend its investigation to every department of the ministry and refer any criminal finding to the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies for prosecution. All those named and implicated in the allegation should be made to face the full wrath of the law. Also, efforts must be made to ensure that there is strict adherence to financial regulations in cooperation between MDAs and other arms of government and their parastatals.
The allegations of corruption in the nation’s health sector are too grave to ignore, considering the critical nature of services it provides and thus should be given serious thoughts and met with firm actions.